Lytle and Atascosa leaders reject appraisal district’s proposal

Atascosa County Precinct 2 Commissioner Stuart J. Knowlton speaks to Lytle City Council about the appraisal budget increase that has been proposed.

By Anton Riecher
Members of the Lytle City Council voted unanimously Monday, August 8, to join with the Atascosa County Commissioners Court in rejecting a proposed 2022-2023 budget for the Atascosa Central Appraisal District that proposed a 12 percent increase from last year.
District 3 Alderman David Emery made the motion that was seconded by District 1 Alderman Joseph Morrow.
“I trust our county commissioners and the county judge,” Emery said. “I know they have looked at this and the county auditor has discussed it in quite a bit of detail. We have a little time and I think we need to send it back and let them start again.”
The 2022-2023 proposed budget submitted presented to the ACAD board in July totaled $2.104 million, a 19.4 percent increase over the previous year. The budget proposal was narrowly defeated five votes to four by the board.
After further revision, the ACAD board approved a proposal calling for a 12 percent budget increase. However, when submitted to the various taxing entities involved, the commissioners voted to reject the proposal, chiefly, Precinct 2 Commissioner Stuart J. Knowlton explained to the city council.
ACAD is responsible for appraising approximately 72,000 parcels of property, Knowlton said. But nearly half of those parcels involve mineral development and are appraised by an outside firm rather than ACAD.
The remaining 42,000 to 46,000 parcels are comparable to the entire workload in either Medina or Wilson counties, Knowlton said. The main bone of contention is the hiring of an additional tax appraiser called for in the latest budget.
“Those counties operate with fewer staff that we do,” he said.
Although Knowlton, who serves on the ACAD board as chairman of the building committee, voted to approve the budget submitted to the commissioners, he told the city council that he voted against the proposal at the commissioner court meeting earlier Monday.
As a counter proposal, Atascosa County Judge Robert Hurley and Tracy Barrera are suggesting an eight percent increase over the previous year’s ACAD budget, Knowlton said.
“We have no issue with the raises for employees,” he said. “Several of their employees, the clerical staff, were way below what it should have been.”
Kimberly Faulk, who represents the city of Lytle and the Lytle ISD on the appraisal board, also appeared before the city council. She said that the most significant raises in the budget represented supervisory personnel.
However, Alderman Emery noted that an appraisal district deed clerk would receive a pay hike from $32,000 to $43,000 in the latest version of the budget.
“Seems like quite a big jump in one year,” Emery said. “It might be better to break that up over a couple of years. We’d all like to get a 35 percent increase in our salary.”
Lytle Salaries
Salary increases for the Lytle city positions of finance director, city secretary and city administrator also received attention from the council.
On a motion by Emery, seconded by Morrow, the council immediately increased the finance director’s salary to $70,000 a year, the city secretary to $55,000 a year and the city administrator to $90,000 a year, as called for in the 2022-2023 city budget.
City Administrator Matt Dear explained that the finance director completed her probationary period on May 3 without receiving the customary nominal salary increase. The city secretary was permanently appointed in June but without a change from hourly employee to salaried.
As for Dear himself, moving to his full salary required the council to wave three months of his probationary period. Mayor Ruben Gonzalez explained that the salary increases would have no fiscal impact since a recent retirement left the salary fund with enough to cover the amount and still show a surplus.
“One of the reasons we are putting it on here is they have done a great job of getting us to where we are right now,” Gonzalez said.
Subdivision Rules
A motion by Emery to explore possible revisions to the city’s subdivision and zoning codes to require buffer zone and other requirements for the development of mobile home parks was approved by the city council.
At issue are plans for a 170-plus lot mobile home park near Martin Street to be called Harris Park. Tammy McDonald and other residents on Martin Street let the council know their concerns.
“Our city is not ready for this many homes,” McDonald said. “The city council should consider the restriction we have put on other developers’ subdivisions.” Specifically, she said she was concerned with the space permitted between homes and other buffer areas.
Acknowledging that the council rezoned the property for this type of development nearly 25 year ago, McDonald said she was concerned about how the mobile home park would affect the value of her property.
Jolinda Harris of Harris Western, Inc. told the council that only new homes meeting federal standards will be allowed in Harris Park. All will be individually owned with no rented mobile homes allowed, she said.
“The only thing that is going to be rented is the lot,” Harris said.
All residents will be fully vetted including a credit check and a check for criminal background, she said.
“I’m not sure other subdivisions do that but we do,” Harris said.
She also objected to calling Harris Park “a trailer park.”
“These are really not trailers,” Harris said. “These are homes built in a factory and moved already built.”
Harris’ father, George Harris, who developed his first mobile home park in Lytle nearly 50 years ago, took issue with the argument that the new mobile home park will have a negative impact on the local tax base.
“They raised the taxes on units that belong to me almost $100,000 last year,” Harris said. “Since last year they raised it $200,000 above that.”
Speed limits
In other action, the council approved motion to revise proposed speed limits and install speed bumps on Lytle-Somerset Street. The motion by Morrow, seconded by Rodriguez, called for the city to investigation alternatives to speed bumps to better control speeding in that area.
Crossing guard
On a motion by Rodriguez, seconded by Emery, the council approved to $6,600 to cover last year’s contribution to Lytle ISD from the Bexar County School Crossing Guard fund.
Memorial event
Also, the council voted to partner with Patriot Automotive for the city’s September 11 memorial event.
“It’s going to be a great event for our first responders,” Gonzalez said.
3 nominated for Citizenship Award committee
The city council voted to nominate three appointees to the city’s Annual Citizenship Award Committee. Morrow nominated Margaret Wilson while Emery put forward the name of Robin Cantu. District 4 Alderman Michael Rodriguez put Eva DeLeon in nomination.
Two additional nominees are pending.